September 26, 2021

Braves advance to Saturday’s Region 5-AA Basketball Championship

(Lagrange, GA) — The Braves are heading to the Region 5-AA Championship game following a 43-37 win over the Temple Tigers in Lagrange Thursday.

The Braves and Tigers had split two earlier season games and the rubber match in the series was also a close one with the margin being only four with about 30 seconds to play in the game.

The Tigers started the game on a 6-0 run before the Braves battle back to take a 22-19 lead at the half.

Brave freshman Jonathan Echols

Freshman Jonathan Echols had a dunk in first half where he accounted for six Brave points.

Isaiah O’Neal continued his fine play leading the team with 15 points including five in the final period.

Jameer Cook had a double-digit effort with 10 points and Kahlil Cofield scored five.

Senior Ayden Cannon sealed the win sinking two free throws with just 19.2 to play.

“You know this is what we’ve set the expectation for at the beginning of the season. The guys are starting to play well at the right time and we are starting to play up to our potential which is a region championship caliber team,” said Coach Derek Smith after the semifinal win.

“We just went man pretty much the whole game, and I just challenged those guys to guard best-on-best to get stops and see who is better.”

The coach was excited to see Echols come off the bench and dunk the ball inside for the second straight game.

“I’ve told our guys that dunks and really good blocks always fires the crowd up and now that we have multiple guys that can do it and one that can do it every single game — it can be a real energy boost.”

The Braves will move on to face No. 1 seed Callaway in Lagrange Saturday for the region title at 5:00 PM. The Cavs downed the Bremen Blue Devils 82-53 in the other semifinal Thursday.

Coach Smith knows his team is capable of beating an athletic Callaway squad despite dropping the first two matchups in close hard-fought battles in both Franklin in mid January and more recently in Lagrange.

“Looking back at the game film we’ve outplayed them for six of the eight quarters but we haven’t been able to stop them from going on a big run in one of quarter of each game. If we can just play four quarters it’s anybody’s game to win,” says Smith.

The winner of Saturday’s Region Championship will host Union County from Region 8-AA in game one of next week’s GHSA Class AA State Playoffs while the loser will host Rabun County next week.

The Braves have not won a state playoff game since 2017, also the last time they won the region championship.

Temple and Bremen will meet in the third place game at 3:00 PM Saturday with the loser facing a road trip to Elbert County for round one and the winner traveling to Banks County.

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